Today I’m here to talk to you, the first-time mom of a newborn. I want to share five things that I’ve learned in the past almost-two years of being a mother myself. Here’s what I’ve got:
- Be gentle with your partner
I can’t tell you how many times in the first months of our daughter’s life that my husband and I irrationally raised our voices and lashed out at each other. We were sleep-deprived and frustrated; we had never done this parenting thing before and every time she would cry for hours for apparently no reason, we would take it out on each other. (By the way, newborns do that sometimes; it’s their way of adjusting to this big and scary world. If the crying is inconsolable and goes on for weeks, talk to your pediatrician.) In hindsight, it was not the best way to treat each other, duh, but sleep deprivation makes people snappy! If you can, please try to be patient and show your partner some grace. They’re scared and in the trenches, just like you. When you feel your fuse getting shorter and shorter, take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds and out through your nose for 8 seconds. This will drastically help you step away from the ledge. It’s a trick that I learned from a Centered Mama workshop.
- Accept the help
It may not be the way you’d do it or what you may want to eat, but accept it any way — and be gracious that you have people in your network who are offering to help. I’m such a control freak and it took me a while to learn that I can’t do it all by myself.
- Repeat after me: Everyone (usually) has the best intentions
And then repeat that to yourself over and over again when THAT person (yes, there is always THAT person) says something to you about your parenting style that comes off as abrupt, rude and totally condescending. I’m 99 percent sure the failure was in their delivery and they’re not intentionally trying to hurt your feelings. So, whatever it is they say regarding how you feed/dress/bathe/soothe/interact/hold your baby, remember these lyrics from one of my favorite Zac Brown songs: “Save your strength for things that you can change / Forgive the ones you can’t / You gotta let it go”
- Take time to grieve your old life
There was a time in the not-so-distant pre-kids past that my husband and I would go see two movies in one weekend … because we were bored. Bored! Can you believe it? We had so much time to kill. Once, we went to Las Vegas for 24 hours just BECAUSE WE COULD. Let’s face it; those days are long gone and it will be years — I’m talking decades — before we have that kind of leisure time and freedom again. How I long for those days yet, at the same time, I wouldn’t change my current set-up for anything. Your first child makes you a mother, and becoming a mother doesn’t happen overnight. It’s OK if it takes a while to accept that this is your new normal. It’s OK to think back on your pre-baby life and miss the spontaneity and all of that free time when you didn’t have to think about anyone else’s needs but your own. It’s all you knew so grieve it properly. Acknowledge that you miss it. I promise it doesn’t make you a sucky mom just because you daydream about escaping for a spontaneous weekend trip.
- Forget the saying “It gets easier.” The truth is, YOU get better
For the first year of your baby’s life, they will go through several changes. Things will happen to them. They will get a fever, pop a tooth; they might develop an allergy to certain foods; they will crawl and fall and bump their tender heads. You will spend hours on Google researching probiotics and different poop consistencies. It’s enough to make your head spin! During this time of your baby’s life, when they’re morphing from a baby into a toddler, something amazing also happens to you: You become a rock-solid mom. Just as they are growing, so are you. Every day you are getting better and better at this “having complete responsibility for another human being” thing. You are growing, changing, learning — just like they are. So anytime you feel like it’s hard just remember that every day, you’re becoming a better parent. Have faith in yourself. You’re a fantastic mother.